Mohatta Palace Museum after renovation
|Architectural style||Indo-Saracenic architecture|
|Town or city||Karachi|
|Client||Shivratan Chandraratan Mohatta|
|Structural system||Pink Jodhpur stone in combination with the local yellow stone from Gizri.|
|Size||18,500 sq ft (1,720 m2)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Agha Ahmed Hussain|
The Mohatta Palace is located in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. It was built by Shivratan Chandraratan Mohatta, a Hindu Marwari businessman from modern day Rajasthan in India, as his summer home in 1927. The architect of the palace was Agha Ahmed Hussain. However, Mohatta could enjoy this building for only about two decades before the independence, after which he left Karachi for India. He built the Palace in the tradition of stone palaces in Rajasthan, using pink Jodhpur stone in combination with the local yellow stone from Gizri. The amalgam gave the palace a distinctive presence in an elegant neighbourhood, characterised by Indo-Saracenic architecture which was located not far from the sea.
|The entrance to the Palace|
|Palace before renovation|
The palace has an area of 18,500 sq ft (1,720 m2) and its facade is trimmed with windows, stone brackets, spandrels, domes, balustrades with floral motifs and exquisite railings. There are nine domes, with a centre dome in the middle; while the windows in the front portion opening out into the garden are of blue colour and those in the rear area are arched windows with stained glass. The palace has large stately rooms designed for entertainment on the ground floor and more private facilities on the first floor, where there is a terrace provided with a shade from intense sunlight. The palace is solely made up of teak wood with a polished staircase, long corridors and doors opening within doors. The "barsati” (terrace) of the Mohatta Palace had a beautiful family temple dedicated to Hindu God, lord Shiva.
Mohatta Palace was a luxurious home built in the late 1920s, consisting of 18,500 sq.yards. The elegant palace is built on different levels and was a summer house for Mr.Mohatta for two decades before he left for India in 1947. There are three levels, basement, ground floor, first floor till you reach the roof. The basement that lies on the north side of the building is quite small and comprises a staircase going downwards towards a hot water pool chamber which has a connected changing room. They say it had a hot and cold water system attached, which would supply the water to the pool. Near the pool chamber are small ventilators, two on each side which may have been used as a source of sunlight and letting out steam. Similarly there was a door leading to a secret tunnel that leads from the grounds of the palace all the way to a subterranean Hindu temple less than a kilometer away. This tunnel was apparently built to provide a safe passage for the Hindu wife of Shivratan Chandratan Mohatta for her daily worship.
This tunnel still exists today, though over time it has caved in, and the entrance is blocked from both ends. Upon stepping inside the building is a corridor which connects to each room situated on the ground floor. The ground floor contains large stately rooms designed for entertainment two towards the right side of the entrance (north), two towards the left (south) and one at the back. The movement inside the building is through the great entrance into a spacious corridor that runs around a huge hall with ornate ceilings and a staircase on the South side.
There is a large square hall with seven openings leading into a corridor. The hall acts as a datum and around it the corridors are connected to the rooms where different activities are held. On the south between the two rooms is a solid teak wood, polished staircase connecting ground floor and first floor.
On each corner of the palace are octagonal towers, in which only two near the front entrance have spiral staircases which go up to the roof. At the far end, opposite the entrance is a room for entertainment which has few stairs on each side leading directly into the grounds at the back of the palace.
When viewed from outside, the ground floor has two very ornate windows on either side of the entrance consisting of three shutters in each. The same windows are on the north and south side as well, on either side of the stairs which lead from the rooms to the grounds. The octagonal towers have five windows each. In the same way there is a protruding ‘chhajja’ which goes all around the ground floor to provide shade.
The first floor has private facilities unlike the ground floor. Although this floor also has a large hall in the centre having ten doors which open into the corridor that frames it on two sides (north and south) and private rooms on the other sides (east and west). There are four large bedrooms with attached restrooms and dressing rooms. Each bedroom has two openings, more like ‘doors opening into doors’. The staircase on the south ends on this floor, leaving a passageway to the left which connects to the octagonal tower staircase that leads up to the roof. There is a similar staircase on the opposite end which leads up to the roof. Whereas the remaining two towers remain disconnected, just giving an outdoor view from the windows to each floor.
Similarly there are windows situated right above the ones on the ground floor giving a view of the vast grounds below. Also there are three openings into the large terrace on the first floor, which overlooks the Arabian Sea. Moreover, the roof top is perhaps the most interesting part of the building, giving an aerial view of the surrounding neighbourhood and the beautiful landscaping done in below.
The rooftop is connected by staircases coming all the way up from the ground floor, through the frontal north and south octagonal towers. The four octagonal towers are topped by chattris. In the middle of the towers, on both of the north and south side are dainty three portioned, rectangular chattris. Altogether there are nine domes, with a centre dome in the middle and smaller four domes around it. This is slightly elevated and is like a room overlooking the rooftop. It has stairs on the north and south side and the five domes are interconnected.
What many do not know about the Mohatta Palace is the secret underground tunnel that leads from the grounds of the palace all the way to a subterranean Hindu temple less than a kilometer away. This tunnel was apparently built to provide a safe passage for the Hindu wife of Shivratan Chandratan Mohatta to go for her daily worship. The tunnel still exists today, though over time it has caved in, and the entrance is blocked from both ends.
Various stories allege the presence of supernatural happenings at the Mohatta Palace. Some museum guides acknowledge that the building may be haunted, citing various incidents where objects have been moved from their original place, or shifted about. There are also rumours that the palace is haunted by ghosts of the British Raj era with guards having "felt" the presence of these spirits during the night. These claims however remain unverified and the guards themselves claim that no serious harm has been done.
Mohatta palace is an elaborate building with intricate details which are present in almost every portion of this magnificent building. These are in the form of carvings. The delicate designs include bird’s wings in the large windows, situated in the top right and left corners of the arches.
There are also peacock motifs in the stonework and they are found around each of the nine domes. Also there has been a lot of use of the scallop shape in upwards and downward positions around the lower areas, in the form of a strip going around the building and on top of the first and second floor windows that protrude outwards. There are also many floral motifs around the surrounding wall, between each scallop, such as marigolds. Hibiscus flowers too are found lightly carved between rectangular shapes underneath all the windows, which are on the sides of the doorways.
Similarly each window and doorway is framed by two large, intricately carved marigolds at the top right and left side of the arches.
Moreover the balustrade terrace, rooftop and octagonal towers have dainty knobs and a rectangular box like shape chiselled into each baluster.
Furthermore there are decorative brackets underneath each window, projecting ‘chhajja’, entrance ways, domes, all around the building which make it look more delicate to ones eye. Also each of the columns around the building has motifs and flowers engraved horizontally between spaces. These go all around the building in a horizontal line.
Similarly the five domes of the barsati have lines etched into them, giving them more form and texture, unlike the octagonal towers which are just plain except for the peacock carving which is present in all of the domes.
After Mohatta's departure to India, the Government of Pakistan acquired the building to house the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1947. Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, moved into it in 1964. In the '60s Mohatta Palace was dubbed Qasre-e-Fatima, becoming the hub of her presidential campaign against President Ayub Khan. After her questionable sudden death, her sister Shireen Jinnah moved in to occupy the ground floor for many years. With her death in 1980, the palace was sealed.
In 1995 it was purchased by the Government of Sindh for its conversion into a Museum devoted to the arts of Pakistan. As a result of the interest taken by the Government of Sindh who took over the ownership of the property and appointed an independent board of trustees headed by the Governor, to formulate recommendations on how best to adapt and use the palace. The trust was established to manage the property and ensure that it would not be sold or utilised for commercial or any other purpose other than that stipulated in the trust deed.Funds for the acquisition of collections for the museum and the construction of an extension will be raised by the trustees through private and public grants, donations and other fund raising activities.The Museum formally opened in 1999. Behind the building can be found a small collection of "English" statues such as Queen Victoria, soldiers of the Raj.
- Tuesday - Sunday 11.00 am to 6.00 pm
- Friday Prayer break between 1.00 pm – 3.00 pm
- Monday closed
The following public transport is available to the museum.
- Bus: No 20
- Minibus: N and W30
- Coaches: Super Hasan Zai and Khan Coach. W-11
All exhibitions at Mohatta Palace are put up for a period of 2 years to 2.5 years. The exhibition that is currently on display at the Mohatta Palace, The Tale of the Tile, is near its end, and the museum is currently in the process preparations for the next exhibition, which will probably features different textiles of Pakistan.
So far, it has housed the following exhibitions
- September 1999: Treasures of the Talpurs.
- December 1999: Qalam - The Arts of Calligraphy
- April 2000: Visions of Divinity - The Arts of Gandhara
- September 2000: Threads in Time - Costumes and Textiles of Pakistan
- November 2000: Miniature Paintings - A Revival
- August 2002: Sadequain, The Holy Sinner
- August 2006: The Tale of the Tile - The Ceramic Tradition of Pakistan
- 20 March 2010 to 23 June 2010: The Birth of Pakistan hosted by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan
- 2010 - 2011: The Rising Tide - New directions in art from Pakistan 1990 - 2010.
- 18 May 2011 to December 2011: "Rebel Angel: Asim Butt 1978-2010"
- February 2013 to date: Labyrinth of Reflections: the Art of Rashid Rana, 1992-2012
- List of museums in Pakistan
- List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Pakistan
- List of forts in Pakistan
- A bit of culture in a piece of history
- Art work of late renowned artist Asim Butt exhibited Daily Times 19 May 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2011